Non-human, more-than-human, other-than-human, posthuman, transhuman, anti-human, multispecies, transspecies—all are terms that have been circulating in the humanities and social sciences, but have lacked clarity in their definitions, interpretations, purposes, uses, and range of application. Moreover, this vocabulary is still unfixed, constantly evolving in meaning and content to reflect a dynamic critical intervention about what it means to be human as humanity must face various catastrophes, of which the current pandemic is one embodiment. What these concepts all seek to do is guide us to transform our human self-consciousness around a pluralist ethos that welcomes others ideals, voices, perspectives, and modes of experiencing the world.
COVID-19 has brought us at a crossroad in the way we, as humans, relate to each other and to other living realms—accentuating a “thinking with Gaia” (Bonneuil and Fressoz 2016) movement. Escapism from nature, or the ability humans have to “daydream and engage in wishful thinking” in the face of threat (Tuan 1998) appears to no longer be possible. While we are entertained and marveled by foxes and ducks walking European cities’ and satisfied that levels of biodiversity seem to be on the rise in many areas post-lockdown, the pandemic has also underscored the deep losses we have incurred in detaching ourselves from nature, and has triggered many to look for new relations with “other-than-human” realms of existence. It is within this context that this special feature on “Rethinking the Human in a Multispecies World” provides a sample of the interrogations scholars have developed around this contemporary malaise. Contributors share their outlook on possible solutions to bring equilibrium back to these broken relationships, implicitly also addressing how more attention to inter-species justice could lessen some of the hierarchies that have shown to been detrimental to our environment, and therefore to our own species.
Hélène B. Ducros holds a JD and PhD in human geography from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her latest publication is Justice in Climate Action Planning (Springer 2022). She is Lead Editor for the joint World Society Foundation-Council for European Studies writing lab and Chair of Research and Pedagogy at EuropeNow Journal.